Dance show looks at AIDS

Dance choreographer Sean Dorsey. Photo: Khaled Sayed
Dance choreographer Sean Dorsey. Photo: Khaled Sayed

Sean Dorsey Dance is celebrating its 10th anniversary home season

with The Missing Generation, a new program that will premier in San

Francisco next week.

Dorsey, who runs the eponymous named dance company, is a

transgender man who’s an acclaimed contemporary dance

choreographer. He has won accolades from San Francisco to New York

with his powerful dance-theater.

The Missing Generation features the voices of many AIDS survivors

and was edited from 25 people who told their stories to accompany the

dance.

“These are oral interviews that I conducted with longtime survivors of

the AIDS epidemic,” Dorsey said. “For two years I researched and then

I did six residencies in cities around the U.S. in which I recorded oral

histories of AIDS survivors from the late 1980s to early 1990s.”

“These are people who lost a lover, a partner, a friend, a child, a parent,”

Dorsey said. “These were early activists and members of ACT UP, early

hospice workers, nurses, and people who were diagnosed 30 or 40 years

ago and are still with us today.”

The work explores the loss of part of an entire generation of gay and

transgender people to AIDS. It features full-throttle dance, luscious

partnering, intimate storytelling, and theater.

Dorsey said that he started to notice a theme emerge from the

interviews.

“I asked people specific questions that I had in mind, but a particular

theme that people started talking about emerged, like a common

experience, even across communities,” he said. “I really ingested these

stories. It was a very intense process to sit across the table from

someone who is a longtime survivor whose experience, for me and

people like me and younger than me, seems like an unthinkable horror.”

Based on these interviews, some of which were four hours long, Dorsey

worked with a team of composers to develop the sound score.

“What the audience hears is original music and the real voices of the

people I interviewed and their remarkable real-life stories,” he said.

“Part of why this project is important to me is that people my age and

younger don’t know what the early days of the epidemic were like. It’s

no fault of our own,” Dorsey, 42, added. “We just were not taught that

history in school, and it is often lost or not documented for younger people, who have no idea about that part of LGBT history.”

Dorsey believes that American culture has turned its back on the survivors of the early part of the epidemic.

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